An Open Letter On Fighting For All Those Who Fought Before Me
The word ‘hope’ means many different things for many different people. In the age of the coronavirus, many hope for a vaccine, to simply see their friends, or be able to eat at their favorite restaurant. Although I hope for these things as well, I also hope for a future in which black people are not slaughtered simply for being black.
My name is Marco Pierce, and I moved to Charlotte when I was 10 years old. Charlotte is my home and where my family still resides. Currently, I am a rising senior at the University of Miami but due to the Corona virus lockdown, I am doing my summer internship from my Charlotte bedroom. However, my family’s history in the city of Charlotte began almost 60 years ago when my grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Leonard and Veronica Bethel, met in this city while attending Johnson C. Smith University. I grew up hearing their stories about them protesting in the Civil Rights Movement in uptown Charlotte. One account in particular always stayed with me – while attending a peaceful protest, my 5’2 grandmother was assaulted by a member of the Ku Klux Klan who mercilessly beat her with her own picket sign. Although there was a large police presence, they stood idly by while my grandmother cried for help. My grandfather stepped in and grabbed her up to protect her. (He also is an ex-football player from Philadelphia and tried to physically lunge at the assailants, but fellow students grabbed him, shoved him in a car, and schooled him on the importance of peaceful resistance – they probably saved his life!)
That is part of their love story, and that is part of the reason that I am here writing this message today. Flash forward to June 2nd, 2020. I, along with over 6,000 other peaceful protesters, marched on the Charlotte Government Center to protest police brutality and institutional racism. I walked the same streets my grandparents did all those years ago while fighting for the same thing they fought for: justice, equality, and an end to centuries of oppression black people have faced in America. This was probably the most surreal moment of my life.
I hope for a future in which black mothers do not have to worry about whether or not their sons will return home at night. I hope for a future in which my grandchildren won’t have to fight for their existence, as my family and I have. There have been times in my life where I have wondered whether anything will ever change. Racism is so deeply rooted that it is sometimes hard to imagine it ever going away. However, while marching the same streets that were once stained with my grandmother’s blood, I finally had hope for a better future, one without the system of oppression in place today.
Now is the time to fight. I am fighting for all those who fought before me, and for those who have been killed simply for the color of their skin. I am fighting for all the black children who will come after me, so that they can finally be treated as equals in the country they call home. This is a fight that affects every single one of us, and it is a fight that has been going on for far too long. We all need to envision the future we want, and take action to ensure that future. This is not a moment, it is a movement, and we have the opportunity to effect substantial change in our country.
***coronaHOPE is a new digital series from Levine Museum of the New South that is highlighting stories of hope and resiliency within our community during these unprecedented times. While we all are doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, many community members are also caring for one another in small and big ways. Please share your stories of people bringing HOPE to their communities with us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org